Tucson, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - The nation's No. 1 team will attempt to keep their unblemished ledger in tact on Thursday night, as the Arizona Wildcats play host to the Southern University Jaguars at the McKale Center.
Southern hasn't started the season very well, as it sports just a 3-7 record, but it is coming off a blowout victory over Dillard University last Saturday, 107-64. The Jaguars deserve some credit for their difficult early-season slate of games, as they have suffered road losses to Marquette (63-53) and Florida (67-53) and will travel to Baylor on Saturday night.
Arizona came into the season as the sixth-ranked team in the polls, but has ascended to the top spot after a flawless 11-0 start, which includes its signature win over Duke on a neutral floor on Nov. 29, 72-66. The Wildcats added another outstanding victory to their resume their last time out by overcoming a double-digit second-half deficit to down Michigan in Ann Arbor, 72-70.
This marks the first-ever meeting between the Jaguars and the Wildcats on the hardwood.
The Jaguars made easy work of their inferior opponent last weekend by outshooting Dillard from the field, 51.3 percent to 40.3 percent, and winning the turnover battle, 17-6, on their way to the dominating 43-point win. Yondarius Johnson paced the strong effort with 20 points and eight rebounds. Malcolm Miller tallied 16 points and seven rebounds, Javan Mitchell added 14 points, and Bryce Clark (15 points, eight rebounds) and Tre Lynch (14 points) both took advantage of extended playing time off the bench.
On the season, Southern boasts a fairly modest offensive attack, shooting 44 percent from the field for 73.3 points per game, although its free-throw percentage (.599) has dragged it down. Johnson (13.8 ppg) and Calvin Godfrey (12.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.8 bpg) are stellar building blocks and each shoots greater than 49 percent from the field. Trelun Banks (10.5 ppg), Tre Lynch (10.1 ppg) and Miller (9.4 ppg) have also played well.
After shooting just 34.4 percent from the field in the first half of its contest with Michigan, Arizona improved to 55.2 percent after the break as it pulled off the impressive comeback victory. Nick Johnson scored 14 points and shot 6-of-6 from the free-throw line in the game's final 25 seconds to help secure the win. Brandon Ashley led the way with 18 points on 8-of-16 from the field, while Aaron Gordon and Kaleb Tarczewski scored 14 points as well.
The Wildcats have found themselves at No. 1 by being one of the nation's most well-rounded teams. They shoot just shy of 50 percent from the field for 76.9 points per game while holding opponents to only 37.5 percent shooting and 59.1 points per game. They also hold a decided advantage on the glass, sporting a +14.2 rebounding margin. The balanced squad has seven players scoring at least 7.0 points per game, led by Johnson (15.5 ppg). Ashley (12.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg) is a high-efficiency forward with great percentages from the field (.591), 3- point range (.538) and the foul line (.750). Gordon (12.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg) is one of the nation's most promising freshman, and Tarczewski (10.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg) is another mainstay in the frontcourt.